Business / Economy

I want to know and ... to be surprised by what I read

By Liz Carver (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-07 07:39

When it comes to business reporting, what I would really like is to read something fresh, something that will give me new insights into China and how it works.

Just for example, I have always wanted to read more about the hundreds of listed companies that never seem to get any coverage, at least not in the English-language media. Many must have distinctive niches and innovative ideas.

Scanning just the ranks of listings more or less at random on the ChiNext board, which was intended to be China's version of the Nasdaq, I wonder what conditions are like for Dayu Water, BlueFocus Communication, Sungrow Power Supply or Zhongtai Cryogenic?

Sure, their names provide a clue as to what they do. But enterprising reporters should spin the stories of obscure companies into compelling narratives about little-known industries, using anecdotes and under-reported statistics.

Small businesses may be the hope of the country when it comes to job creation, especially for new graduates who find it tough to get into established companies. Small companies and startups have notoriously high failure rates.

But when I walk around Beijing and observe the storefronts, it seems like most small firms have incredibly short lives. If you look at any given store, you may see a different business every few months. I cannot help but wonder whether it is the same entrepreneur just taking advantage of one fad after another, hoping to find something that works.

Industry coverage is largely limited to the usual topics such as technology, energy, tourism, cars and retail. Smartphones are hot and everyone wants a car. I get it.

But in a country where there are said to be 300 million people who play (not just watch) basketball, why is sports business a sorely neglected subject? There must be licensing deals and sports merchandisers worth covering. How much are Chinese people spending on their favorite recreational and spectator sports?

Chinese children no longer make do with the simple games their parents played. Who are the prominent toy producers and designers, and how do they target their customers?

China undoubtedly has a nanotechnology industry, but who are the key players and what products do they offer?

I have read that there are 5,000 companies in China making stationery products. And here I thought that paper had become obsolete. Now that "nobody" uses calendars and e-books are the only way to read, how many of these companies can possibly survive in their traditional industry?

Do not tell me any more about the economies of a handful of famous cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. I would like to know what drives some fifth-tier city.

Government initiatives that affect or target specific industries tend to be reported when they are announced, often with little or no follow-up. When the government announces tax breaks for animation companies, for example, what actually happens? How many of these companies benefit from the initiative, and how does it affect their operations and finances? Would they have survived or prospered otherwise? I never seem to read about that.

And by the way, who are some of the "other" economic thinkers of China? I do not mean just the prominent analysts and officials who are quoted everywhere, every day. There must be hundreds of professors toiling away, producing research that provides interesting insights but that is rarely disseminated beyond Chinese-language academic journals. I would like to know what is on their minds.

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